There have been many great scorers in National Basketball Association (NBA) history. Among them is former Philadelphia 76ers center Wilt Chamberlain who once averaged a little over 50 points a season, former Los Angeles Lakers big Kareem Abdul-Jabbar whose patented skyhook is often described as the most unstoppable move and held the NBA’s all-time points record for almost four decades, and fellow ex-Laker great Shaquille O’Neal whose ferocious dunks earned him the mantle of the most dominant player past or present. More recently, the likes of two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant, three-time NBA scoring champion James Harden and four-time NBA MVP LeBron James, who recently broke Andul-Jabbar’s scoring record despite being considered to be a pass-first player joined the conversation. Many current and former NBA players and historians however agree that Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan is arguably the best scorer the game has ever seen.
How many 60 point games did Michael Jordan have? Michael Jordan had an impressive five (5) 60-point games during his illustrious NBA career. The 10-time NBA scoring champion registered the third most such games in NBA history ahead of Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (4) and tied with Portland Trail Blazers marksman Damian Lillard. Only the late great Kobe Bryant (6) and Wilt Chamberlain (32) have more. However, it is only Jordan and former Lakers forward Elgin Baylor who achieved the feat even once in a playoff game.
Michael Jordan’s 63-Point Playoff Game
When Jordan entered the NBA as the third overall pick in the famous 1984 draft, most people hadn’t pegged him out to be the great scorer he came to be known as. The former North Carolina had however shown flashes of scoring prowess evidenced by his clutch game-winning jumper against Georgetown in their 1982 NCAA Championship game, which handed the Tar Heels the historic victory.
His Airness averaged just over 28 points per game in his maiden season to earn his first All-Star selection and NBA Rookie of the Year honors. The three-time NBA steals leader was on course to have an even better second season but was limited to only 18 games after sustaining a serious foot injury in just the third game of his 1985-86 season.
Jordan however recovered in time for the playoffs where his big test to that point awaited him in the form of the Larry Bird – Kevin McHale – Robert Parish Boston Celtics. The five-time NBA MVP erupted to average 44.7 points per game in the series and broke Elgin Baylor’s 61-point record for the most points scored in a single playoff game by putting up 63 points in double overtime in Game 2.
Despite losing the game 135-131 and eventually the series, Jordan was lauded for his performance with Bird famously and perhaps even sacrilegiously claiming that it was “just God disguised as Michael Jordan”. Air Jordan shot 22 of 41 an efficient from the field and scored 48% of his team’s total points.
“Back to Back” 61-Point Games
After fully recovering from injury, Jordan went on a historic scoring tear in the Bulls’ 1986-87. The 2009 NBA Hall of Fame inductee averaged 37.1 points per game to earn his first of 10 scoring titles in dominant fashion.
In a six-week stretch between early March and mid-April, Jordan registered two 61-point games. The first came in a 125-120 win over his archnemesis – the Detroit Pistons – on March 4, 1987, who were yet to develop or implement the infamous “Jordan Rules” that were meant to frustrate the 14-time NBA All-Star on offense.
Aside from scoring 61 points on 22 of 39 shooting and 17 of 18 from the line, Jordan also tallied 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, and 3 steals. The nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team honoree had an encore performance points-wise around a month and a half later against the Atlanta Hawks on April 16, 1987.
The shooting guard made 22 of his 38 shots from the field and 17 of 21 free throws. He also registered 10 rebounds, 4 steals, 1 assist, and 1 steal. The three-time AP Athlete of the Year equally set an NBA record for the most consecutive points scored by a player in a game by putting up 23 straight points from the end of the fourth quarter to the beginning of the third.
A third-quarter bucket also made the three-time NBA All-Star MVP the only man besides former Philadelphia 76ers legend, Wilt Chamberlain to score north of 3,000 points in a single season. Jordan’s heroics were only soured by the 117-114 loss they suffered at the hands of the Dominique Wilkin-led Hawks.
Jordan’s 69-Point Revenge Against the Cavs
Most players who ever played Jordan would testify that the worst thing you could do when squaring off against the two-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion was to poke the bear. The Cleveland Cavaliers learned this fact the hard way as Jordan led his side to an emphatic 117-113 road win on March 28, 1990.
The Cavaliers had drawn first blood by letting loose defensive-minded players like forward/center Larry Nance, guard Mark Price and center Brad Daugherty on Jordan. The trio appeared hell-bent on avenging their playoff exit at the hands of Jordan via a last-second game-winner that since came to be known as “The Shot” the previous season and proceeded to commit a hard foul on the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year early on in the game.
Jordan took the gesture in stride and proceeded to unleash the best scoring performance of his career making by converting 23 of 27 and 21 of 23 of his shots from the field and free throw line respectively along with 18 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals in the overtime victory.
Jordan’s 64-Point Clinic vs Shaq
In the list of top dream playoff matchups, Jordan vs Shaq is likely to be among the first. Though the two juggernauts ultimately squared off in the 1995 NBA playoffs, their clash on January 16, 1993, is more memorable because of the back-and-forth duel between the two superstars.
Shaq, who was then a rookie, led the Orlando Magic to a 128-124 overtime win with 29 points, 24 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Jordan in turn scored 64 points while shooting 27 of 49 from the field along with 6 rebounds and 5 steals.
The momentum was initially in the Bulls’ favor late in the game but failed to execute late on both ends of the floor allowing the Magic to overcome a six-point lead with only 44 seconds left in the fourth quarter. In the post-game press conference following the match, Jordan once again revealed his winning mindset by stating that scoring 64 points “doesn’t mean anything when you lose”.